Review of Never Alone, by Elizabeth Haynes

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For Elizabeth Haynes, merely to be very good is below standard for her because she ranks for me @ the very top level alongside Tana French & Sharon Bolton. Tho’ she lacks French’s genius @ executing plot & Bolton’s extraordinary fertility of invention, Haynes excels @ creating characters so appealing & engaging that you want them to be your closest friends & would cheerfully & enthusiastically kill to rescue them – Cathy in Into the Darkest Corner, Genevieve in Revenge of the Tide & especially Scarlett in Behind Closed Doors. But tho’ Sarah in this book is quite likeable, she never engaged my affections & appeareded but to bumble & muddle through. She seems very passive, but tho’ passivity characterised Cathy – as well as Annabel in Human Remains – I didn’t care for Sarah as much, perhaps because she is older, a widow, so I’d expect her to be more mature & capable, particularly in her personal relationships. A strong woman should have seen off the villain in the story tout de suite. I liked her daughter Kitty, but she had but a small part. Son Louis I found an inexcusable boor, despite probably being an Asperger’s sufferer. Aiden was a difficult character, as throughout the book we are supposed to find him ambiguous. What I did not find ambiguous was his profession. By my standards, if your business is giving others sexual pleasure, you are a worker in the sex trade, regardless of what parts of your body you use to practise your metier. Granted, many would disdain Genevieve’s role as a pole dancer, but she exemplifies athleticism, grace, & beauty, as well as facing real danger. Most importantly, Genevieve has a boat to maintain, a beautiful boat even if it is a stinkpot – it’s a classic wooden stinkpot. Aiden hasn’t a similarly worthy cause. But there was a pleasant surprise amongst the minor characters. In the hands of most other writers, Sarah’s friends Sophie & George would have simply been an exurban airhead society dame & a sleazy MP. That Elizabeth Haynes develops them so sympathetically displays that insight that makes her one of the very best contemporary authors, even when she is not @ the top of her game.

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